It seems implausible that the word "bitter" could come anywhere near the sweet sensation of winning four state titles.
But Hermiston senior Joey Delgado couldn't help but feel there was a little left on the table after the Bulldogs wrapped up the Oregon 5A state championship with a third-place finish.
"It was bittersweet," said Delgado, who became the first Hermiston wrestler to win four state titles and the 20th overall in Oregon. "Most of the guys that won it are all about finishing a goal, completing the whole goal. The whole goal was to win state titles as individuals and win as a team. We didn't win as a team -- it's bittersweet, but everyone who went to state did their job."
No one can say Delgado ever came up short on the job. The Bulldogs' stellar 138-pounder, who will strengthen the connection between Hermiston and Oregon State when he heads to Corvallis to begin his collegiate wrestling career, finished the season 51-1 and his career an astonishing 197-3.
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His only loss this season -- his first in nearly two calendar years -- was at the Reser's Tournament of Champions, 3-2 to Roseburg's Reed Van Anrooy, who dominated the 6A 145-pound bracket.
His goal this season, like last, was to finish unbeaten. But winning his fourth title was a realization of a longtime dream.
"I felt like I wrestled in that match a thousand times," he said. "I've been in that match ever since I was small, every day. To know that it was finally over feels pretty good."
His coach, Curt Berger, has had plenty of multi-state champions in his 21 seasons at Hermiston, but he knows the Bulldogs wrestling room won't see too many like Delgado.
"You don't get too many athletes like that over a coaching career," said Berger, who retired at the end of the season. "To win four state titles, you have to have a lot of things go correctly.
"He was head-butted in the mouth last year and got seven or eight stitches in the mouth, and he almost lost the match on bloodtime. That's why it's so difficult to win four state titles.
It really is special to have somebody able to do that."
Even without that last team title, Delgado finishes his high school career with seven championships -- his four plus three team titles.
"Four state titles was a big goal of mine, and I knew I could get it done because you do work to get it," he said. "But the team state titles, I didn't know that would happen.
"It's been a good, good run, a good high school season, and I'm glad I grew up in Hermiston, represented Hermiston.
"I think I've done everything I could have, and I'm glad everything turned out the way it did. It made me the person I am today."
Delgado is joined on the first team by three Hermiston teammates: Isaac Aguilar, a sophomore state runner-up at 113; Tyler Berger, a sophomore two-time state champ who went 45-0 at 132; and Lupe Delgado, Joey's junior cousin who placed fourth at state at 145.
Additionally, senior Abraham Rodriguez is a second-team pick from the Bulldogs at 152 after winning a state title and going 37-1. Rodriguez, who missed the first part of the season with injuries, was edged out for first-team honors by Moses Lake's Nico Moreno, a two-time state runner-up who dominated the 152 class to finally win his title as a senior.
Moreno also has a teammate on the first team after junior Beau Gleed placed third at state at 120 pounds.
Southridge senior Connor Rosane is the only Tri-Cities wrestler to crack the first team after his fifth-place finish at 160 in the 3A state tournament.
Kiona-Benton's Cruz Del Angel gets the nod at 170 with an unbeaten season in the 1A ranks, including a win over Kamiakin 3A state champ Sisto Santana Pina, who finishes on the second team.
The smaller schools logged their fair share of first-teamers: Warden senior JP Martinez winning back-to-back Class B titles at 126; Othello senior Joey Gomez going from two-time state runner-up to 2A state champ at 220 pounds; Connell senior Tyson Brook, who finished second at 285 in the 1A bracket; and Riverside's Hans Rockwell, an unbeaten freshman at 106 in the Oregon 3A ranks, and Briton Hansen, a senior state champ at 182 who upholds the family tradition -- brother Brigham was a three-time state champ who was on the first team last season.
Sunnyside senior Miguel Guzman rounds out the first team after placing eighth in 3A at state.
Othello junior Allesha Reyes finished second at 137 to rank first-team among girls 137 and below, while Connell freshman Felisha Orozco was second at 170 to get the nod for 145 and above.
Chiawana coach Jack Anderson is the coach of the year. He and his staff have turned the Riverhawks into one of the top programs in the Mid-Columbia in just three years, evidenced by their six state participants along with league and district titles.
"Our kids and our coaching staff and the families worked extremely hard the last two years building this program," Anderson said. "We preach work hard and you'll have success. We had high goals this year, and we lived up to those goals."